meditation in business

Here’s why this founder asks employees to meditate together every morning – Business Insider

It’s no secret that meditation is good for you.

Business Insider’s Kevin Loria recently laid out the plethora of research-backed benefits that meditation offers, including its ability to help us deal with stress, improve memory, and even boost our immune systems.

Those are just a few reasons the 10-person team at Soma, a San Francisco-based company that produces an eco-friendly water filtration system, sits silently in a circle together every morning for 15 minutes.

“After a quick team huddle on our priorities, we meditate to relax our minds, get focused, and share in a communal activity,” says Mike Del Ponte, cofounder and chief hydration officer of Soma . “Everyone is welcome to meditate however they like. Most focus on their breath and calming their minds.”

Del Ponte says most of Soma’s employees had never meditated before joining the company. “Coincidentally, they are usually the ones who enjoy it the most,” he explains. “We create an environment that is comfortable and open. No one feels pressured or intimidated.”

Mike Del Ponte Liang ShiMike Del Ponte, cofounder and chief hydration officer of Soma.

And as it turns out, meditation isn’t just good for his employees’ health. It’s good for business.

“Our daily meditation has had an impact on each teammate individually, as well as our culture as a whole,” Del Ponte says. “For individuals, meditation increases focus, decreases stress, and helps us to be more creative. As a company, it sets the tone for the vibe we want to have in the office: relaxed, thoughtful, and focused on health.”

Here are four tips for incorporating meditation into you workplace:

1. Make it a daily ritual, not something that’s “nice to have.”

“It’s more important to do it briefly each day than to try and have long sessions,” Del Ponte says. Ten to 15 minutes is short enough to be accessible to everyone, but long enough to have a meaningful effect.

2. Make it comfortable for everyone.

Let employees sit how they want and do whatever they choose with the available time. “If it seems too strict or weird, it will turn people off.”

3. Make it fun.

“At the end of each session, we say ‘Somaste’ (instead of Namaste) to remind ourselves not to take things too seriously,” he says. “We also have a Tibetan singing bell that sometimes sounds beautiful and sometimes sounds so awkward that we all laugh.”

4. Ask someone to take the lead.

“There’s usually one person in the company that is really passionate about meditation,” Del Ponte explains. “Ask that person to be accountable for meditation happening every day.”

Read more:

Arianna Huffington: Mindfulness, Meditation, Wellness and Their Connection to Corporate America’s Bottom Line

On Tuesday I’ll be guest-hosting CNBC’s Squawk Box, a program that bills itself as the show that “brings Wall Street to Main Street.” As well as discussing Cyprus and a possible euro-crisis,

we are going to discuss the growing trend in corporate America of taking steps — meditation, yoga, mindfulness trainings — to reduce stress and improve health and creativity.

One of my guests will be Mark Bertolini, CEO of the third-largest health insurer in the country with 30,000 employees insuring 17 million people. In 2010, Aetna partnered with Duke University’s School of Medicine and found that regular yoga substantially decreased stress levels and health care costs. Following this, Bertolini made yoga available to all Aetna employees nationwide and has a much bigger mission: to make sure there is research available to facilitate private as well as state and federal coverage of yoga and mind-body therapies.

Even a quick look at what’s happening in the American workplace shows that it’s a seriously split-screen world. On the one hand, there’s the stressful world of quarterly earnings reports, beating growth expectations, hard-charging CEOs, and focusing on the bottom line — the world that is the usual focus of CNBC and Squawk Box. On the other hand, there’s the world populated by the growing awareness of the costs of stress, not just in the health and well-being of business leaders and employees, but on the bottom line as well.

There is a growing body of scientific evidence that shows that these two worlds are, in fact, very much aligned — or at least that they can, and should, be. And that when we treat them as separate, there is a heavy price to pay — both for individuals and companies. The former in terms of health and happiness, and the latter in terms of dollars and cents. So yes, I do want to talk about maximizing profits and beating expectations — by emphasizing the notion that what’s good for us as individuals is also good for corporate America’s bottom line. To do that, I’ll be featuring guests who have had great success at bringing these two worlds together and putting what at first might seem like abstract or esoteric concepts to very productive use in the workplace.

When we separate these two worlds, the costs come in two forms. First, there are the direct costs due to stress and its associated medical conditions, and, second, there’s the cost of lost creativity and diminished performance and productivity.

According to the World Health Organization, the cost of stress to American businesses is as high as $300 billion. And unless we change course, this will only get worse. Over the last 30 years, self-reported levels of stress have increased 18 percent for women and 25 percent for men.

This has huge consequences, of course, because of the role stress plays in a wide array of illnesses. Like high blood pressure, which afflicts nearly 70 million, and which costs $130 billion a year to treat. Or diabetes, which 25 million Americans have.

The CDC estimates that 75 percent of all health care spending is on chronic illnesses like these that can be prevented. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, two-thirds of visits to the doctor’s office are for stress-related conditions. As a panelist on health care at the World Economic Forum put it this year, what we have right now isn’t health care but “sickcare.” And sickcare is a lot more expensive than real health care. Especially for businesses.

As business professors Michael Porter, Elizabeth Teisberg, and Scott Wallace wrote in the HBS Working Knowledge, studies show that U.S. employers spend 200 to 300 percent more for the indirect costs of health care — in the form of absenteeism, sick days, and lower productivity — than they do on actual health care payments. Their recommendation: that companies “mount an aggressive approach to wellness, prevention, screening and active management of chronic conditions.”

Though awareness is growing, there are still too many companies that don’t yet realize the benefits of a focus on wellness. “The lack of attention to employee needs helps explain why the United States spends more on health care than other countries but gets worse outcomes,” wrote Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. “We have no mandatory vacation or sick day requirements, and we do have chronic layoffs, overwork, and stress. Working in many organizations is simply hazardous to your health.” And thus to the health of your company as well. “I hope businesses will wake up to the fact that if they don’t do well by their employees, chances are they’re not doing well, period,” Pfeffer said.

One company that did wake up was Safeway, whose experience is described in the recent documentary Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare. CEO Steve Burd recounts that in 2005 Safeway’s health care bill hit $1 billion and was going up by $100 million a year. “What we discovered was that 70 percent of health care costs are driven by people’s behaviors,” he says. “Now as a business guy, I thought if we could influence behavior of our 200,000-person workforce, we could have a material effect on health care costs.”

And so they did — in the form of incentives for employees to lose weight, control their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It was a huge success. “You allow and encourage your employees to become healthier, they become more productive, your company becomes more competitive,” Burd says. “I can’t think of a single negative in doing this.” He concludes: “Making money and doing good in the world are not mutually exclusive.”

One of the best — and cheapest — ways to become healthier and happier is through mindfulness exercises like meditation. Mark Williams is a professor of clinical psychology at Oxford, an expert in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and the co-author of Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World. According to Williams, after nine weeks of training, participants in a mindfulness program had “an increased sense of purpose and had fewer feelings of isolation and alienation, along with decreased symptoms of illness as diverse as headaches, chest pain, congestion and weakness.”

In fact, the health effects of meditation can be even more dramatic — a matter of life and death. Williams points to a National Institutes of Health study that showed a 23 percent decrease in mortality, a 30 percent decrease in death due to cardiovascular problems and a big decrease in cancer mortality as well. “This effect is equivalent to discovering an entirely new class of drugs (but without the inevitable side effects),” they write.

The effects of stress reduction techniques are equally dramatic on our productivity, creativity, energy and performance. And that’s because these tools change the way we think so dramatically that they can be measured biologically. Dr. Richard Davidson is a professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin and has used MRI machines to study the brain activity of Tibetan monks. As Fortune‘s Oliver Ryan reports, “The brain functioning of serious meditators is ‘profoundly different’ from that of non-meditators — in ways that suggest an elevated capacity to concentrate and to manage emotions. [Davidson] calls meditation a ‘kind of mental training.'”

This can make an equally profound difference in our work lives. As Tony Schwartz, author and CEO of the Energy Project writes, it’s not about the quantity of time we put into a task, but the quality:

It’s not just the number of hours we sit at a desk in that determines the value we generate. It’s the energy we bring to the hours we work. Human beings are designed to pulse rhythmically between spending and renewing energy. That’s how we operate at our best. Maintaining a steady reservoir of energy — physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually — requires refueling it intermittently.

In short, happiness and productivity are not only related, they’re practically indistinguishable. According to the iOpener Institute, in a company with 1,000 employees, increasing happiness in the workplace:

  • Reduces the cost of employee turnover by 46 percent.
  • Reduces the cost of sick leave by 19 percent.
  • Increases performance and productivity by 12 percent.

And the happiest employees, compared with their less happy colleagues, spend 40 percent more time focused on tasks and feel energized 65 percent more of the time.

Happier employees also take six fewer sick days a year, and remain in their jobs twice as long.

That last one is another way of saying that mindfulness is an antidote to burnout, which often leads to companies losing their most talented employees. Marie Asberg, professor at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm describes burnout as an “exhaustion funnel,” which we slip down as we give up things not conventionally deemed “important.” As Mark Williams and Danny Penman note in Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World:

Notice that very often, the very first things we give up are those that nourish us the most but seem ‘optional.’ The result is that we are increasingly left with only work or other stressors that often deplete our resources, and nothing to replenish or nourish us — and exhaustion is the result.

One occupation known for burnout is physicians. Studies show that anywhere from a third to half of them suffer from it. But a 2009 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that doctors taking part in mindfulness exercises were less burned out. Even more dramatic was the fact that many of the improvements continued even after the year-long study concluded.

This is why more and more companies are realizing that their employees’ health is one of the most important predictors of the company’s health. Along with sales reports, market share and revenue levels, in those all-important Wall Street conference calls business analysts should be quizzing CEOs about their employees’ stress levels: “Yeah, I see your net profit numbers, but how burnt out are your employees?”

One company that “gets it,” and has since its inception, is Google. One of the most popular classes it offers employees is known as S.I.Y., short for “Search Inside Yourself.” It was started by Chade-Meng Tan, engineer, Google employee number 107, and the author of Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace). The course has three parts: attention training, self-knowledge, and building useful mental habits. “I’m definitely much more resilient as a leader,” Richard Fernandez, a director of executive development who took Tan’s course, told the New York Times. “It’s almost an emotional and mental bank account. I’ve now got much more of a buffer there.”

But the trend goes way beyond Silicon Valley and companies like Google. Janice Marturano founded the Institute for Mindful Leadership after she left General Mills, where she set up a popular mindfulness program — and a meditation room in every building of their campus. “It’s about training our minds to be more focused, to see with clarity, to have spaciousness for creativity and to feel connected,” she told the Financial Times‘ David Gelles. According to the company’s research, it worked: 80 percent of participants said they felt it had improved their ability to make better decisions.

Joining General Mills are one-quarter of all U.S. companies — including Target, Apple, Nike, Procter & Gamble. And, I’m happy to say, The Huffington Post and AOL.

And while the benefits of mindfulness are important no matter where you are in the company org chart, it’s especially vital for the hard-charging managers and leaders who tune into CNBC every morning. “The main business case for meditation is that if you’re fully present on the job, you will be more effective as a leader,” says William George, Harvard Business School professor, former CEO of Medtronic, and a guest on Tuesday’s show. “You will make better decisions.”

So although, at first glance, mindfulness and wellness might seem like “soft” topics for CNBC, in fact it’s as much about the bottom line as Squawk Box‘s usual morning fare. There’s nothing touchy-feely about increased profits. This is a tough economy, and it’s going to be that way for a long time. Stress-reduction and mindfulness don’t just make us happier and healthier, they’re a proven competitive advantage for any business that wants one.

“There is no work-life balance,” says Janice Marturano. “We have one life. What’s most important is that you be awake for it.”

Watch Arianna discuss this on HuffPost Live:

Arianna Huffington: Mindfulness, Meditation, Wellness and Their Connection to Corporate America’s Bottom Line.


Why Mindfulness and Meditation Are Good for Business – Knowledge

You don’t need a personal guru or a trip to India to bring you inner peace. Perhaps you simply need to learn from Mirabai Bush, co-founder of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. Bush has worked with several businesses to teach people about the benefits of meditation and contemplative thinking. She has helped individuals improve their listening skills, their teamwork abilities and their anger management at corporations such as Google, Monsanto and Hearst. In addition, Bush has worked with non-profits, lawyers and educators, among others.

In this interview with Knowledge@Wharton, Bush spoke with Katherine Klein, vice-dean of Wharton’s Social Impact Initiative, to discuss how individuals can bring meditation and “mindfulness” into their everyday lives. (It’s not as difficult as you may think.)

An edited version of the conversation appears below. 

Katherine Klein: The broad topic we want to explore is how businesses, organizations, nonprofits and for-profits turn to contemplative practices, such as meditation. But first, let’s start with the challenge many people face with fitting meditation into their lives.

Mirabai Bush: Pretty much everybody thinks it’s difficult to fit meditation into their lives. But we say, “You’re not too busy to brush your teeth or to eat breakfast.” Once you experience “mindfulness,” which is an umbrella term for meditation and some other practices, you begin to realize its benefits, and then you can incorporate it into your life. Don’t think of it as a big deal, but rather as a short practice each day that really makes a big difference.

We’ve seen all the research on the various benefits — from stress reduction to health and cognitive benefits, including an increase in attention and creativity and so on. So once you begin to practice mindfulness, you begin to think of it as just part of your life. And there are some ways to make it easier to incorporate into your life. First of all, keep it really simple; brief practice is fine. Just focus on your breathing for a few minutes, and each time you’ll be reminded of how calming and quieting it is.

Klein: In addition to meditation, are there other beneficial practices that you think people might want to consider squeezing into their days?

Bush: On The Contemplative Mind website there is The Tree of Contemplative Practices. We designed that tree after talking to people from 80 different organizations that have incorporated some contemplative practices into their work. We simply asked them if they were doing any contemplative practices to calm and quiet the mind and increase awareness. People in businesses, nonprofits, law firms and educational organizations gave us a long list of different practices. I think in the workplace, the practice of “mindful walking” is a good thing [to do] when you’re walking from place to place. Instead of sitting at your desk and focusing on breathing, when walking from place to place — which you’re naturally doing — you can bring your awareness to the sensation of walking.

We once taught mindful walking to a group of environmental canvassers. They were walking from house to house, and in between their appeals to people, they were paying attention to their walking and letting go of all other thoughts. They reported back that they were much more effective because when they got to where they were going, they were fully present in that moment with whoever opened the door. So walking’s a great practice for mindfulness.

Recently we’ve been looking at the practice of looking. In museums or with books of artwork, people do … what is sometimes called “beholding” whatever is in front of them. Just looking at what’s there and letting go of all other thoughts, opinions and pre-judgments can be useful.

Klein: As you speak, I’m struck by the challenge to these practices presented by our cell phones and iPhones. Whenever there’s a moment of pause, we automatically pull out our cell phones.

Bush: Years ago, I lived in a monastery in India. I remember there were always lots of lines for everything. As young Westerners, we were always impatient. I remember one day we were complaining, and a teacher said to us, “Waiting is being.” I still think of that in those situations. We all check our email or Facebook or whatever while we’re waiting. But it’s possible, while waiting, to use that as a way to just calm, quiet and stabilize the mind. That calms and quiets all of our physical systems, as well. Even a few moments of that really helps us to feel better and be more present in the moment.

Klein: Can you tell us about the benefits you’re seeing in the workplace when people engage in mindfulness or contemplative practices? One clear benefit for individuals is that they feel less stressed and sleep better.

Bush: I’ll tell you about some experiences of mine. Let’s start with Google: Chade Meng-Tan wanted to host a mindfulness-based stress reduction class and expected Googlers to sign up. He posted information about the class and nobody signed up. He was very disappointed and wasn’t sure what to do next. Someone encouraged Meng to call me, so we came together and started by looking at who worked at Google. We recognized that Googlers are very young, very smart and very competitive. They come from the top of their class at the best universities and mostly sit in front of their screens. They’re generally really good at algorithms, but needed better self-awareness and better awareness of others. Although they may be great in front of their screens, most of their work involves teamwork. They needed help relating to one another.

Furthermore, Google’s employees are about one-third Chinese, one-third Indian and one-third everybody else, so there were cultural misunderstandings. We recognized that they needed better ways to relate to others and build awareness of others. We could see that the employees would recognize this as well. So we engaged Daniel Goleman, who wrote Emotional Intelligence, and we used the same practices that were being offered in mindfulness-based stress reduction classes, but we emphasized interactive practices. We re-framed the classes to focus on mindfulness and emotional intelligence. Within the first four hours of posting, 140 people signed up. We taught them how to improve their communications with others, we taught them mindful e-mailing and we taught them about dealing with negative emotions. In general, we helped them with communicating and working together in teams. [For more details about the Google program, Search Inside Yourself, see Knowledge@Wharton’s interview with Chade Meng-Tan.]

Klein: I’m intrigued by the idea of dealing with negative emotions. This is obviously a challenge for people. Give me an example of how to cope with this.

Bush: At Google, we started by asking people to remember a time when they were angry and allowed that anger to arise in them. We taught them to be mindful of the sensations in the body as negative emotions arose, and then pause and recognize that they can have various responses to that anger. They can choose to not let the anger drive them, but rather, have awareness of the anger and assess what the options are for response.

Then we asked them, in the beginning, to pause and take a few deep breaths before noticing the sensations in their body. Just that little exercise really helps people to not react immediately to anger and unpleasant emotions. They report that it’s really helpful for their relationships with others.

Klein: So interesting. We’ve heard about Google but I wonder if you have examples from other companies or organizations that you have worked with.

Bush: We did a short, one-day program with the electric company National Grid. They were bringing together all of their diversity officers in the Northeastern [U.S.], and they wanted to do something that would help them appreciate diversity even more among themselves. The program involved people bringing food from their family traditions. We did some mindfulness practices to help people become calmer, quieter and more stable when they arrived.

We did a practice called “just like me.” This was one of the first times that I did this practice with a business group, and these were very mainstream, corporate people. We had them stand in two lines facing a partner across from them. The person who was guiding the practice started by saying various phrases and then [asked participants] to repeat them silently [to themselves while] looking into the eyes of the other person. You can see that the person across from you is a human being with thoughts and emotions, just like you. The guide goes on to say, “This person has been sad in his life, just like me. This person has done things he regrets, just like me.” And then it goes through a range of things. “This person wants to be loved, just like me.”

I took part as well. The person across from me was a regional manager from Buffalo, N.Y. He was wearing a suit and tie. He was a white, working class, Buffalo guy. When the practice was over, it was so touching. I just thought, “Oh my God, I’m going to have to stay with this person forever. I’m in love with him. I’m never going to be able to leave him.” It was really powerful.

Now we do this practice with lots of different kinds of groups. I did it last week with a group of university professors. It’s very powerful. It’s all about compassion, which is so helpful when you’re working with difficult people. Once you do this practice, then you can do it silently to yourself before you go into a meeting, or as you’re listening to someone whom you’re having a hard time with. You can think, “This person wants to be happy just like me.”

We also worked with Monsanto in the late 1990s, when they had a new CEO and they were making their shift toward agriculture. Bob Shapiro was their new director. He was a really creative thinker, and he had just inherited this 100-year-old chemical company. He wanted to see what they ought to be doing for the future. (I’m reserving judgment on their decision.) He was interested in the creativity of his top executives. He invited us for a retreat with the top 18 executives, and we did a four-day, three-night silent retreat off-site.

Klein: Wow.

Bush: Yes. It was really intense. I can only imagine a few corporate groups committing to that. But Bob was a real risk-taker, and it was very powerful. After that, for several years, we did off-site retreats and on-site day-long programs. They put meditation rooms in many of their buildings.

In terms of feedback, the vice president of organizational management development said this: “The most noticeable change in the largest group, which included scientists and some of the foundation team, was a shift from cynicism to hope. When people talk about what happened to them or how it’s changed them, they talk about how they went from being negative, pessimistic and cynical to being hopeful, being more centered.”

There’s another quote from a project coordinator. He said, “Mindfulness helps clear all the chatter that goes on constantly in your head, and you begin to find out what’s real for you in your life. What makes this program so great is that it can effect long-term evolution in individuals, and therefore, in the organization. It’s provided more purpose and meaning to what I’m doing at work.”

Klein: That’s great. But when I think about meditation, most of it focuses on the individual. When you encounter organizational issues, should you focus on helping the individuals or should you focus on teamwork techniques?

Bush: Well, yes — either or both. For example, when we worked with employees at Marie Claire, they were stressed. These are young women in New York in a very competitive world, working against deadlines all the time. They were all stressed. Our program focused on individual mindfulness meditation to achieve a calmer state. While this was very individually focused, they did it as a group. They came together once a week for two hours and were led in practice by someone. Even though we didn’t emphasize the group dynamic, people appreciated each other more. They felt a deeper bond because they were going through something together. Being there and going through this process with other people and knowing that they’re doing the same thing and they’re feeling vulnerable helped build an appreciation of other people.

But then there are also ways to work with teams. At Google, we paired people off for listening exercises, and they would mindfully speak and listen to each other. People were instructed to let go of other thoughts and emotions as they would listen to the speaker. Then we’d sit in a circle and discuss the experience of listening and speaking in pairs. People revealed that they usually didn’t listen in that way, and they hadn’t realized how much judgment was going on when they were listening. This can give you an appreciation for how these practices can affect a group process.

Klein: I want to go back to your discussion of Monsanto. You mentioned the positive benefits of mindfulness and contemplative practice. But I wonder if this leads people to make different decisions as a company.

Bush: Yes. That’s the big question, of course. Monsanto is a great case study for that. We worked with Monsanto for four years and during that time they became really involved in genetically modified foods. The environmental movement was revving up in response to this, and we were, at the same time, working with the Green Group, which was a group of CEOs of national environmental organizations. We were working with two groups that were radically opposed to one another. Our job was simply to teach these groups practices related to questioning, mindfulness and inquiry. This helped people look at the connection or lack of connection between personal and corporate values.

Inside Monsanto they were studying population predictions for the next century, and they really felt that they were going to contribute to increasing yields and feeding the world for the 21st century. It was hard for them to entertain that what they were doing wasn’t a good thing. But after a while, they were getting so much resistance that Bob Shapiro decided to invite the president of the Rockefeller Foundation to their board meeting. At this point, the Rockefeller Foundation was leading some of the research and the resistance to the development of genetically modified foods.

They had a long discussion at their board meeting, which led to some changes within Monsanto. It obviously didn’t lead to the end of their commitment to genetically modified foods. But at the time, it led them to let go of some of what Rockefeller considered their worst practices. [The president of the Rockefeller Foundation] convinced them that if they didn’t let go of this one terrible product, which I think was labeled “terminator technology,” everything else that they were doing would be “tarred with the same brush.” He convinced them that it was to their own advantage to let go of what he considered the worst product. Ultimately, Monsanto became more open to listening to opposing arguments and different perspectives. I saw a movement toward that while I was working with them. So yes, I saw changes.

Unfortunately for us, Bob stepped down as CEO, and somebody else came in. The new CEO did away with anything that had to do personally with the former CEO. He got rid of our program. But all these years later, I still see people who say that the program really changed them and that they took those benefits with them wherever they went in the corporate world.

After that, we did a rethink about our work in the corporate world, and we focused on a number of smaller programs. It wasn’t until Google came along that I really felt like there was an opportunity to do a company-wide program that really could have a big effect, which I think it is doing.

Klein: I have one final question. Early in the interview, I jotted down some words that you mentioned. You said something about “non-judgmental presence.” On the one hand, I think the notion of non-judgmental presence is important, and it’s linked to listening and compassion. But at the same time, you’re working with people who need to make judgments and decisions. I was struck by that duality of non-judgment and judgment. Can you expand on this?

Bush: I think it is the hardest thing to grasp. This is very philosophical. The present moment is here. It’s here in front of us. It is what it is. The important thing in mindfulness is to see the present moment as it is and not to bring pre-judgment to it.

To explain my point, let me give an example relating to some work we’ve done with lawyers. A group of judges asked us to do a special workshop on mindfulness and emphasizing non-judgmental awareness. They wanted to do this because they said that when people arrived in front of the bench, they would find that their minds leapt to judgment based on people’s appearance, and they knew they shouldn’t be doing that.

This example relates to business because it’s about seeing the situation as it is. It’s about making decisions without … pre-conceived notions. It doesn’t mean that we don’t make judgments, choices and decisions. It’s about making better choices by seeing what’s actually there in front of us.

Another important issue relates to distraction, which is increasing all the time with our advances in electronic information. Mindfulness really increases our attention and takes us beyond distraction. Distraction keeps us from being productive, and I think it leads us to not look deeply at situations, to stay at the superficial level. Mindfulness will help us stay focused on what really matters and help us make better decisions for the future.

Why Mindfulness and Meditation Are Good for Business – Knowledge@Wharton.


Robert Piper: Meditation: America’s New Pushup

The pushup has been a standard part of being American. If you grow up in America and go to school, one of the first things you’re taught in gym class is how to do a pushup. Millions of Americans do pushups before work, during their lunch break, and at the gym. Because of pushups, we’ve mastered getting ripped pectorals, deltoids, and triceps.

However, we’ve done horrible at managing stress.

Stress costs American businesses around $300 billion a year. Stress is one of the most common long-term absences in the workplace. NBC’s chief medical editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, recently said: “Stress is a huge factor when we look at medical problems such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cardiac disease.”

Millions of people in America are paying for an overstressed lifestyle: More than 25 million American suffer from diabetes, and some 74 million have high blood pressure. Stress shrinks our brains, may cause depression, and people who are stressed have higher risk for a stroke.

Several of my friends are driven business-savvy men and women with Type A personalities; they like to tease me about how I do meditation. Until one day, on a Friday night one of them pulled me aside and said, “Hey, I have really bad stress problems. Can you tell me about meditation?” He wasn’t the first of my friends to do this; I’ve heard the same line from a few of them. I stopped over at one of my friend’s house, who lives in an expensive high rise in Chicago and works 100 hours week. When he opened the door, he was grinding his teeth, and looked like he hadn’t slept in a week. My first words were, “Stressed out?” He responded, “Yeah, terribly stressed.”

This seems to be the culture of America; everything is go, go, go! No wonder the majority of heart attacks in America is on Monday morning. Another guy I know had band aids on his thumbs, from typing so many emails on his BlackBerry keyboard. He types more than 100 emails a day on the thing — the skin on his thumbs were actually peeling off. He was so stressed; it was difficult just to have a conversation with him.

It seems like this fable of The Lion and Gazelle is installed into the psyche of American culture, “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle — when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

We don’t have to live like this; we can still be successful and relaxed at the same time if we incorporate meditation into our culture. There’s nothing wrong with a culture full of ambitious men and women; I just want to see more people relax.

I teach meditation to a lot of very wealthy Type A personalities, and one of the things I see with Type As is a lot of them have forgotten how to breathe. The first thing I teach them is to breathe naturally.

Simple mindful breaks throughout the day will do wonders to the culture as a whole. If we all looked at our breathing and checked in with ourselves throughout the day, we would feel a lot better.

Here’s a simple meditation that anyone can do.

1. Find a comfortable place to sit in a chair, close your eyes, bring your awareness to your breathing.

2. Take a deep inhale.

3. Exhale out.

4. Again inhale, bring your attention to all the feelings in your body in a non-judgmental way.

5. Exhale out, focusing on all the feelings in your body in a non-judgmental way.

6. Repeat those steps above. As you progress, work on bringing your breathing to its natural state.

7. Then, open your eyes and carry that feeling with you for the rest of your day.

America is a culture that loves to win. If Americans want to continue to win, they better figure out a way to incorporate meditation into their schedule. Because as the statistics show, stress is cleaning house. To continue winning we have to incorporate meditation into our culture. Meditation is the new pushup.

For more by Robert Piper, click here.

For more on meditation, click here.

via Robert Piper: Meditation: America’s New Pushup.